The Rt Honourable Theresa May MP
Prime Minister

10 Downing Street
3 August 2016

Dear Prime Minister

Today, on the 2nd anniversary of the beginning of a gross and systematic pattern of human rights violations against the Yezidi people, we are calling on you and the British Government to take action and to trigger mechanisms for accountability for the perpetrators of what amounted to a genocide of the Yezidi in Iraq and Syria from August of 2014 onwards.

Now that the independent international Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic has definitively established that the Yezidi people have suffered and continue to suffer a genocide, it is time for the UK government to join the voices calling for an international remedy, for action and for accountability for the barbaric atrocities that have taken place, without any further delay. It is time for the UK Government to accept its international responsibilities under article IV of the Genocide Convention which include the responsibility to punish not only persons committing genocide, but also those who conspire to commit genocide, directly and publicly incite the commission of genocide, attempt to commit genocide, and/or who are complicit in genocide.


To this end we ask you to put forward a resolution to the United Nations Security Council to establish a formal investigative commission for the crimes committed by ISIS with a view to a referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (2), or the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal with relevant geographic and temporal jurisdiction at the first possible opportunity.


The genocide began on 3rd August 2014 when Islamic State fighters swept out of their bases in Syria and Iraq and across the Yezidi lands of Sinjar in Iraq. The Iraqi Peshmerga were unprepared for the attack and many abandoned their positions and weapons, leaving the local population defenceless. Many Yezidi families fled to Mount Sinjar where a humanitarian tragedy quickly unfolded. Hundreds of people died before the Syrian Kurdish forces of the YPG mobilised to mount a defence of the Yezidi and to open a humanitarian corridor to allow people to get to Syria and safety.


Reports began to be disseminated of the most unimaginable atrocities being committed against those who had not been able to escape: “of men being killed or forced to convert; of women and girls, some as young as nine, sold at market and held in sexual slavery by ISIS fighters; and of boys ripped from their families and forced into ISIS training camps. It was quickly apparent that the horrors being visited upon captured Yazidis were occurring systematically across ISIS-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq.” (3)


As Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws said in the debate in the House of Lords on 21st March 2016: “Genocide requires a very high evidential burden. All of us lawyers working in the field know that no one doubts that these acts have to reach a very high legal threshold. However, these acts do just that. The constitutive acts of killing, causing bodily or mental harm, raping, preventing birth, and the forced transferring of people from their land all meet the legal requirements of genocide, so we should not be in any doubt that we are dealing with genocide here. We have to break the cycle of inertia that we have heard described.” (4)


Over 3 200 Yazidi women and girls remain in captivity with ISIS . They continue to be sexually enslaved, abused and subjected to multiple rape or to witness the murder of their children if they attempt to escape but are recaptured. Many have committed suicide by cutting their wrists or throats or by hanging. Yazidi boys are also being held, indoctrinated, trained and used in hostilities and thousands of Yazidi men and boys are missing.


The survivors of these atrocities are in dire need of therapy and specialist support services and will continue to be for years to come, whether reunited with their families, or destined to remain indefinitely in refugee and IDP camps. They need a process of restorative justice, which will incorporate their therapeutic needs, and they need this process to be started now.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Protestant theologian executed by the Nazis, said:

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act”. The British government now has an enormous responsibility to speak out and to act against this most egregious of crimes. If it fails to do so in the face of the reams of evidence that now exist, from the international independent Commission, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide and the Knights of Columbus amongst others it will be to its immense shame for years to come.


We therefore ask you on this anniversary to take the necessary action to move this matter forward, to ensure that the United Nations Security Council can be seized of this matter, so that peoples on the brink of extinction in the Middle East no longer have to look at Western Governments and wonder why they have been abandoned to their fate.


Yours sincerely

Estella Schmid, Peace in Kurdistan – Women Alliance

Melanie Gingell, Peace in Kurdistan – Women Alliance

Turkan Budak, Vice-Chair Roj Women’s Assembly

Makbule Gunes, Haringey Councillor

Michelle Allison, Kurdistan National Congress (KNK)

Evrim Yilmaz, Co-chair Kurdish People’s Assembly, UK

Rohash Shexo, Kongra Star, UK

Dilar Dirik, Kurdish activist and PhD student Cambridge University

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

Jean Lambert MEP

Julie Ward MEP

Natalie Bennett, Party Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales

Margaret Owen OBE, barrister and Director of Widows for Peace Through Democracy

Dr Radha D’Souza, University of Westminster

Christine Blower, NUT International Secretary

Dr Carol Mann, Women in War

Mary Davis, Professor of Labour History

Jane Miller, Emeritus Prof at London University

Cynthia Cockburn, researcher and writer

Rahila Gupta, writer and journalist

Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters

Lindsey German, Convenor Stop the War Coalition

Dr Jennifer Langer, Director of Exiled Writers InK

Anne Gray, CAMPACC

Melanie Singhji, human rights campaigner

Rukhsana Ahmad, writer

Rohan Thamotheram, accountant

Atiha Sen Gupta, writer

Ravinder Randhawa, writer

Martha Jean Baker, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

Maggie Bowden, General Secretary, Liberation

Prof Kariane Westrheim,  University of Bergen, Norway
Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, writer

Sarah Parker, Haringey Left Unity

Andree Duguy

Joy Hall

Patricia Ziad

Jandan Candan, lawyer

Bronwen Jones, barrister

Leonie Pilart, painter, sculptor









  1. As proposed by Stephen Rapp, former US Ambassador for War Crimes.







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